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Community Websites Vs Facebook Groups: What Works, What Doesn’t

Community Websites Vs Facebook Groups: What Works, What Doesn’t

Does your online business own a tribe?

[pullquote]Companies that have loyal and interactive communities that do more than just read or watch, the content they produce, spend less marketing dollars than their competitors.[/pullquote]

Social media has made it easier for Kenyan businesses to build and grow digital communities around their brand allowing them to get the marketing messages to their customers much faster than before.

This has provided companies with tremendous value because they no longer have to depend on expensive advertising to lure new customers while hoping that existing customers still keep coming back.

Recommended Read: Facebook Growth Hacks: 10 Ways To Get Results In Your Marketing

Can a hustling entrepreneur build an online community?

Bootstrapping entrepreneurs can make the most of the content that they produce on their website by positioning it as a marketing weapon for their business.

Content such as videos, text, photos, and blogging when done correctly, can go a long way in boosting engagement on your website helping you grow your loyal fan base.

[pullquote]It is easier to upsell a product to a member that is already part of your community than it is to a brand new customer. [/pullquote]Online communities allow businesses to build customer loyalty by allowing them to part of your movement resulting in strong economic returns. For the members, the feeling is compared to that of being part of a tribe.

A community website provides content and links that can only be accessed by its members. There are three main types:

  • Forums
  • Community Blogs
  • Social Networks

These platforms provide opportunities for people across the world to come together to access and exchange information.

Also Read: 8 Powerful Facebook Tools That Save Time & Improve Your ROI

 

Creating a Niche Community Using Facebook Groups

With over 1.44 billion monthly active users, Facebook offers opportunities for people with common interests to connect either privately or publicly.

Facebook Groups are an effective way to build an online community by bringing together a huge number of people at a single platform to share useful information.

Just to be clear, I am not talking about Facebook pages; Facebook pages are simply public profiles of your business where you broadcast posts to your audience. [pullquote]A Facebook Group is where you get your customers to interact with each other; basically, it’s a community of your customers.[/pullquote]

Pros of Facebook Groups:

  • Free
  • Easy To Set Up
  • Many of your customers already use Facebook
  • Provides you with privacy options such as: open, closed or secret
  • You can easily share rich media such as photos and video
  • Mobile Optimized

Cons of Facebook Groups:

  • Limited control over functionality
  • You cannot export data from the group
  • Old posts are lost in the News Feed, as only new posts are shown at the top
  • Does not integrate with your website or URL
  • Your customers can’t quite tell the difference between a Facebook Page and Facebook Group

Also Read: 5 Visual Content Strategies That Deliver Tons Of Traffic.

Here are some of the ways you can make use of Facebook Groups to grow your online community:

  1. Direct communication with your customers: Your Facebook Group is like your very own private email list where you start and lead meaningful conversations with your community of followers
  2. Product / Service Feedback: Your customers can provide feedback on your training programs which you can then use to improve your course.
  3. Customer Service: Your customers can use Facebook Groups to post questions which your support team can respond to instead of using email.
  4. Customer Retention: Facebook Groups give your customers opportunities to ask questions and get quick responses making them feel like they are part of a community.
  5. Customer Acquisition: Facebook Groups are an opportunity for customers to network and interact amongst each other, this puts a spotlight on business.
  6. Increased Authority: Facebook Groups place you in a position of leadership which increases your perceived authority among your audience.
  7. Increased Traffic: When you post on your Facebook Group all members receive a notification thereby increasing traffic to your website.
  8. Increased Revenue: Allowing access to your Private Facebook Group provides additional incentive for the purchase of your products/service.

Here’s How You Can Create Your First Facebook Group In 5 Easy Steps:

Step 1: Pick A Name

Choose a group name that is different from your Facebook Page name. For example if you offer online courses then you need to include the name of the course so that it is easily distinguishable by your customers.

Community Websites Image 1

Screenshot of a Facebook Group

 

Step 2: Adjust Your Facebook Group Privacy Settings

After choosing a name the next step will be to select your group’s privacy settings. You can choose from either of the following:

  • Public
  • Closed
  • Secret

These setting affect how members can join and view post on the group.

 

Step 3: Write A Description For Your Group

The description will appear in the right sidebar of your Facebook Group where everyone can see it.

[Tweet “Aim to Make your Facebook Group’s description clear and compelling.”]

Community Websites Image 2

Screenshot of a Facebook Group’s Description

 

Step 4: Add a Cover Photo

Similar to your Business Facebook Page and your Facebook profile your will be required to upload a cover art for your Facebook Group.

Community Websites Image 4

Screenshot of A Facebook Group Cover Photo

 

Step 5: Always Pin A Welcome Message To The Top Of Your Group

Welcome posts are a great way to introduce yourself and remind your members what the purpose of the group is for. You can also include Group guideline and remind your members to read the group guidelines before they post in your group.

Community Websites Image 5

Screenshot of a Facebook Group Pinned Post

 

Creating a Niche Community Using Membership Websites

Building a community website takes a lot of time, planning, work, and effort.

If your website is powered by WordPress then you’re in a better position to make use of plugins and tools that make this process simple and easy to setup.

To start a successful community website you will need to know exactly what your brand needs which needs strategic planning. Once you determine what type of community you need you can then proceed to select a plugin.

Once you determine what type of community you need you can then proceed to select a plugin.

Pros of Community websites

  • Use of Analytics software provides companies a good glimpse of what their target market looks like.
  • Information is promoted and made available on one single platform and it’s easy to search for previous discussions
  • Online forums allow members to advertise their businesses whether paid or free.
  • Good for large groups of members
  • Increased control over functionality
  • Automated access: There is no need to manually approve and remove members
  • Fully focused on your brand and product
  • Provides more advanced features such as private messaging, status updates and text formatting
  • Keeps your members on site

 

Cons of Community Websites

  • Expensive and technically complicated to setup
  • Doesn’t offer privacy options
  • May not be mobile responsive
  • May not offer options to embed rich media such as photos and videos
  • Need to consciously login to the site to access the community
  • There is a learning curve if new to the forum
  • More members needed to create an engaging community

 

Building Community Sites with WordPress: 4 Plugins To Get You Started

WP-Members

FREE

Community Websites Image 6

This plugin allows you to restrict access to particular pieces of content creating a membership site.

It provides you with a straight forwards option of protecting your content.

Some of its notable features include:

  • Block posts, pages, both, or none by default
  • Block individual posts/pages
  • User login, registration, and profile integrated into your theme
  • Sidebar login widget
  • Create custom registration and profile fields
  • Set which fields display and which are required
  • Notify admin of new user registrations
  • Hold new registrations for admin approval
  • Setting to automatically create post excerpts
  • More than 100 action and filter hooks for extensibility

WishList Member

Community Websites Image 7

One of the notable features of this plugins is it provides paid, trial and free membership levels. Wishlist member provides unlimited updates, guides, tutorials and some great support.

Wishlist member provides unlimited updates, guides, tutorials and some great support.

Some of it most notable features include:

  • Unlimited Membership Levels
  • Flexible membership options
  • Easy Member Management
  • Multi-Level Access

 

Optimize Member

 

Community Websites Image 8

This plugin is designed for creating high converting sales pages, landing pages, webinar pages and membership sites.

This plugin comes with a WordPress theme version and its own membership plugin.

Some of its notable features include:

  • Secure Membership portal
  • Sales and Marketing Pages
  • Mobile Ready Versions of All Pages

 

S2 Member

 

Community Websites Image 10

This is a free plugin and has different customizable options you can change things like email templates, login welcome page, high-level security.

With this plugin, you choose the ability to choose the exact content to protect along with protecting your downloads.

This plugin requires some coding aspect so it may not the easiest to work with.

Some of its notable features include:

  • Content Restriction options
  • Brute Force Login Protection
  • Security Encryption Key

 

Take Home,

Unlike Facebook Groups, Community websites provide more flexibility over the long term.

The greatest strength of Facebook Groups is the ease of setup not to mention that it is free. As compared to forum communities, Facebook Group engagement tends to be lower, less serious and short term.

Whichever you choose just remember that it is important to have an online community in order to keep your customers engaged with your product / service.

At the end of the day whether it’s a Facebook Group or a community website you really want to make sure that your members have the right to be there, otherwise it takes away any exclusivity and value.

Was this article helpful?

Do you know of any other community website plugins that I haven’t mentioned above?

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As always, I would love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment below. Drop me an email at [email protected]  tell me a little bit about yourself or your business. You can also send your comments to [email protected]

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About The Author

Catherine

Catherine is the Founder and CEO of E-Technology Africa, a digital marketing agency based in Nairobi, Kenya offering social media, S.E.O, website, and app development services. She works closely with B2C and B2B businesses providing digital marketing content that gains social media attention and increases your search visibility.